What is gossip? Gossip (or rumours) are typically casual conversations or negative reports about other people, that are not confirmed as being true. Now, why should leaders or anyone care about gossip? I mean, if it's not true then why not just ignore it right? Well, you can but there is a cost. Negative talk can ruin creativity and productivity, damage relationships and morale, destroy culture, cause good employees to leave, and put customers off. In other words, when left untreated, (especially within a leadership team) gossip is a poison that will destroy any business from the inside out. If you do not declare war against it, then it will prevail. Everyone - not just leaders- has to play their part in eliminating gossip in the work place. The following tips will help stop people from stabbing each other in the back and saying negative things about one another in the work place.
1. Lead by example
Start with you. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, are you guilty of speaking negative about a person to another? If so, then stop! Remember that as a leader, everyone is watching you. If your team or other staff witness you gossiping, then the chances are, you just gave them permission to do the same. Also, You need to show by example that gossip is not OK. Try avoid impulse speaking when your'e angry. Instead first check that your mood is right, then think about why and what words you are going to say before you say it.
And yes, gossiping over email or text is still the same as gossiping in person.
2. Identify gossip and Confront it
No one is perfect. We all have flaws. People normally sway towards being negative, competitive and comparative without even realising it and it could be because of insecurities or a need to be acknowledged and noticed. However, despite the reason for gossip, the first step to getting people to coach themselves out of negativity and to becoming positive is self-awareness. Do you or your team know what gossip is? Can you identify gossip when it is happening? As a leader you need to clearly define what gossip is to your team.
When you recognise gossip in the workplace, you need to be proactive and take the courage to confront it in a positive, loving and constructive way. Show work peers how to do the same. You can also confront and influence the dynamics of a conversation by mentioning positive things about a person rather than just watch and let people continue criticising a person.
3. Tell people what kind of culture you want to build
From who you are hiring to who is currently within your team, always communicate clearly your expectations of a gossip-free workplace! Share why gossip is toxic to your team and business and why it will not be tolerated. Help people understand that gossip will be taken seriously and that warnings will be issued. When people choose not to heed the warnings, then potentially employment could be at risk.
However keep in mind that when you enforce a no-gossip policy in a workplace, be prepared and expect that you could potentially lose staff. According to Entreleadership, "When you draw a hard line in the sand, like a no-gossip policy, there will be turnover. Employees may not be able to make the turn and will either leave on their own or get fired. Rick estimates that about 10% will go. But in the long run, you’ll be much better off." Sometimes, this is the only way to help erase gossip.
However, remember to be patient with people when making decisions. People are not perfect and will make mistakes. In addition, just as important as explaining why gossip is toxic, we must also highlight the benefits of a gossip-free workplace and to reward or appraise good behaviour that encourages it.